Saturday, July 11, 2009

Pull THIS Out of Your Hat

There are several difficulties when it comes to over-hauling B/X magic-user titles.

[by the way, let me just say for the record that I LOVE the class name "magic-user;" as a kid, it always annoyed me..."why couldn't they just call him a wizard?" As an adult I see the wisdom in describing someone as a "fighting man" or "magic-user"...if only they'd figured out a better term for the "cleric"]

For one thing, most titles pretty much mean the same as any other ('warlock' versus 'sorcerer,' for instance...both are associated with witchcraft and black magic). However, some titles carry different connotations from others, and these can be used to determine an appropriate level.

A greater difficulty (for me) is that there are SO MANY cool titles for magic-users...much more than the nine needed to get to "Name" a result, I'm forced to discard some that are personal favorites but which may be "too specific" (the Necromancer for example..bye-bye).

Well, we do strive for consistency.

A third challenge is that, while magic-users reach "Name" level at 9th level (as with all character classes), they don't finish developing their abilities until well beyond that.  Strictly speaking, all B/X classes have their full abilities (top spell levels for example) by 9th level...elves, clerics, thieves; none of them get additional avenues opened for them after level nine. Magic-users don't gain their last level of spells (6th in Expert) till level 11.  A whole new slew of spells (from disintegrate to reincarnation) become theirs to control.

Also, although magic-users reach Name level at 9th, they don't get the ability to build a tower stronghold until 11th level. This is inconsistent with all other B/X classes...all have the option of settling down at or before Name level.

At first glance, there appears no real justification for this.  Magic-users have the highest XP requirements of any level 9 they've gathered more XP than any other human class. This means they'll have accumulated more treasure as well (since B/X experience points are based mainly on treasure found).  The magic-user will have less trouble building a tower (30,000 for the largest in the book) than other classes will constructing keeps and fortresses.

In addition, at 9th level magic-users gain the ability to brew potions and craft magic items...where is this going to take place?  At the local tavern? They need a base of operations to throw together a lab and library!

In my earlier post, I wrote how the B/X magic-user is an adventuring class; never will a Normal Man know or use magic. The only thing I can reason is the game is attempting to model the mage's overwhelming "quest for power;" the desire to adventure until they've uncovered the secrets of 6th level spells.  This happens at 11th level, the same level magic-users may settle down and obtain apprentices.

This paints the magic-user class in a very specific color...ambitious, driven, and power hungry! Those wizards without the drive to "possess all knowledge" can retire earlier than level 11 I suppose...they'll train no apprentices and build no tower, simply living out the remainder of their days in a cottage or inn room somewhere, perhaps acting as a court magician growing fat and complacent, or acting as the local hedge wizard brewing love potions.

Perhaps magic-users don't actually reach Name level until 11th level.  They don't make "name" for themselves till then?

This would appear to be how both OD&D and AD&D handle the class.  Though those systems don't use the concept of Name level, they still confer titles at each level, and magic-users do not reach the final title ("wizard") until 11th level.  AD&D actually adds two sub-titles of "Mage" and "Arch-Mage" at levels 16 and 18 (when the magic-user learns 8th and 9th level spells).

Of course, does this mean they should receive hit dice till level 11?  That would be consistent with the "drive to reach Name level" equaling a greater balance of hit points being added.  But in B/X play humans never receive more than 9 hit dice...well except BECMI which breaks its own rule with the inclusion of the "thug" monster class in the Master rules.   Ugh...can't rules be written consistently?  

Maybe...I actually see that in the Rules Cyclopedia, BECMI changes it's rules regarding magic-users such that towers can be built, and apprentices attracted, at level 9 ("name" level). Well, that's consistent at least, though the RC also does away with level titles altogether (the whole point of this examination!). In the RC, "Name" level just refers to the level at which you pick up an additional title: Lord/Lady, Wizard/Maga, Patriarch/Matriarch, etc.

Huh.  I said this was difficult.  Maybe I need to poll my blog readers.

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